With FromSoftware and Bandai Namco’s Elden Ringset to dazzle the gaming world this coming February, there is already much hype about the game.
To make sure that it is all justified and to invite more pain into our lives, we jumped into early access for the upcoming Closed Network Test for Elden Ring and started our journey as a Tarnished.
Needless to say, we left knowing that things are going to be even more spectacular at launch.
The signature Souls-like flair is apparent even at the title screen, as you will get to choose one of five classes available this time around – Warrior, Enchanted Knight, Prophet, Champion, and Bloody Wolf. Character creation has always been a beloved feature for FromSoftware games, and it remains to be seen if that will return in Elden Ring.
Each class comes with different equipment and stats, but that will likely only matter at the beginning of your adventure. Over time, players will be able to tweak their approach and builds accordingly, just like the previous games that came before.
However, the Closed Network Test for Elden Ring also does a great job in showcasing just how far the formula has evolved, promising surprises for veterans and newcomers alike.
Tentative steps into Elden Ring
Taking on the mantle of the Bloody Wolf, we took our tentative first steps into the game, and got smashed over and over again by the first major foe that was patrolling outside the initial areas. This rude introduction by the Tree Sentinel definitely foreshadows the inherent dangers of the world, but you always have the freedom to avoid such encounters and continue your path forwards.
It helps that the world in Elden Ring is massive, with more verticality added for even more fun. You could be hiking across the mountains, exploring the jungles, or getting down by the river and finding your way to your objective. You can pick up crafting materials, visit vendors to get some shopping done, or strengthen your arsenal with upgrades or better equipment.
The expanded scale is not just refreshing from the traditional design point of view, but also allows the developers to include certain events that can play out for shock and awe.
One of those encounters involve the sudden appearance of a hulking fire-breathing dragon as we explored the surroundings. The music swells, the Flying Dragon Agheel roars, and you know you are in for an epic battle on a larger scale than ever before. Then, it is time for the combat to shine.
Guts & glory
Elden Ring maintains certain aspects that are mainstays for such games, such as the dodge rolling, the stamina system, and different uses for either hand.
Blocking does not just prevent damage, it could also be your opening to counterattack and break your opponent’s stance for more hurt. You can also jump to avoid damage or launch powerful jumping attacks, and then there is mounted combat.
Much has been made of the Spirit Steed and its uses to help close the distance in the massive world, but mounted combat is also great fun and enjoyable. For foes as large as a dragon, you can be darting in and out for surgical strikes, and hightailing out of danger when the fire comes.
It does feel a little overpowered at the moment, even against other mounted foes, but that will likely see some balancing for the full game. Besides, you cannot depend on mounts in the more traditional dungeon setups in Elden Ring.
You might find yourself stumbling upon a dank cave full of wolves and a fearsome beastman protecting treasures, or a gigantic castle protecting a key to your next objective, every set piece occasion in Elden Ring serves a purpose.
Players can marvel at just how FromSoftware are so great with all the little and big details, the fluidity and precision of the combat system, or the lore building that comes with the visual and audio designs.
It comes to a point where every death is one to savour, as you start learning more about what you can and cannot do in Elden Ring. Is the shortcut worth pursuing?
Are there hidden traps or enemies lying in wait in the dark? Am I strong enough to take on the ogre protecting the roads or should I summon some help? These are all questions that are familiar to anyone who has enjoyed such games.
Elden Ring takes your breath away
Add to that already intoxicating blend monumental encounters with even more intricately designed bosses and enemies, and this is a nonstop rollercoaster ride designed to delight and horrify at the same time.
For possibly the only major boss fight in the Closed Network Test for Elden Ring, Margit the Fell Omen is such an intimidating presence from the moment of his introduction to the actual battle itself. What follows is a harrowing lesson of learning patterns, figuring out the windows of opportunity, and plenty of deaths.
Considering that many other such encounters lie in wait for the full version of Elden Ring, it is absolutely amazing to know that the sense of satisfaction and desire to improve in the player will never be more keenly felt.
It is clear as day that Elden Ring represents an evolution for both FromSoftware and Hidetaka Miyazaki. Familiar systems have seen reworks, while new additions are meant to complement everything players love and more. If there was ever a Souls game to rule them all, Elden Ring is shaping up to be the prime contender for the crown.
This article was first published in Geek Culture.